Farm families must be alert to E.coli risk, says safety body
Farm families have been warned to be on the alert for verotoxigenic E. coli infection as the number of reported cases has more than doubled this year.
Most of the 547 cases were in in rural areas and almost all involved children under five years of age, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
E.coli bacteria live in the guts of animals and humans and most types are harmless but verotoxigenic E. coli can cause serious illness.
It is passed in faeces so people can become infected after contact with animals and the farm environment, or after taking contaminated water or food or drinking unpasteurised milk. It can cause severe stomach pains and bloody diarrhoea, and, in some cases, kidney failure and death.
Food Safety Authority chief executive Prof Alan Reilly expressed his concern at the 118 per cent increase in cases and said farmers had a critical role to play in reducing risk of infection.
“Because their immune systems are still developing, babies and young children are most at risk of becoming seriously ill from this infection,” he said. “It can be easily spread to others such as their siblings or other children in their creche or at their childminders.”
Prof Reilly said it was vital to wash children’s hands after playing on the farm.
The authority has published a leaflet for farm families on reducing the risk of E. coli infection, which is available on fsai.ieor from its advice line at 1890 336677.